The first time I opened a course catalogue to select my courses, I remember being overwhelmed. I had recently moved to a new country to go to university and was adjusting to an unfamiliar environment, building a social circle and trying to participate in on-campus activities all at the same time. I had so much on my plate and the pressure to select the right courses made me feel hopeless. Navigating a decentralized campus ecosystem can be an overwhelming experience for many students. Most colleges offer a “cafeteria” model where students are responsible for identifying the courses and programs they should participate in each semester. These students often have other things on their minds as well. Like me, they may be adjusting to a new city, or trying to make friends, or have other social demands that divert their focus. The pressure to do everything while not knowing what to do can lead to students becoming overwhelmed and disengaged. During these trying times, institutions need to guide their students on the academic and non-academic activities they should participate in. This requires informing students of relevant programs, tracking students as they participate in these programs, assessing their efficacy and supporting students if they need to make any adjustments. Current tools to measure and assess the student experience are spread across different technologies and departments, creating fragmented or limited engagement data. Institutions such as Eastern Michigan University, Cedar Crest College and Southern Maine Community College are addressing this issue via their campus app. Having implemented mobile technology for over a year, they are using their campus apps to inform students of important programs, track their engagement with key events and services, and gather student feedback on their participation through an integrated rating system delivered via targeted push notifications. EMU uses their app to assess their student success initiatives and administer their Eagle Rewards program. Students can earn points by participating in certain programs, and then use these points to gain My Eagle Rewards. They can see upcoming events, check into services such as Supplemental instruction, Success Coaches and the Learning center to receive points, and view their accrued points via the app. This allows EMU to inform students of the programs that they should participate in, incentivize them to participate, and track their participation in an easy, scalable way.
Like EMU, Cedar Crest College uses the app to measure their student engagement initiatives. Using the app, students are informed about First and Second Year Experience, Residence Life, Student Center programs and can scan in and provide feedback on these programs. They can view their historical engagement record and start building a co-curricular resume. By using the app to track student engagement at the start of the semester, Cedar Crest can measure how engagement (in the first 6 weeks) predicts persistence for the rest of the semester. Such engagement data can be used to identify disengaged students at an early stage and provide them with the support they need. SMCC uses the student engagement data along with other indicators such as GPA and club participation to develop a student engagement dashboard. This dashboard allows them to see how students are progressing from semester to semester and be proactive in providing information and support. Through data driven decision-making, they can course-correct any students that may require it at an early state. These examples show how technology can be used to scale resources to track and assess key programs. With a diverse student body dealing with numerous challenges and expectations, it is essential that today’s institutions stay connected to their students and provide them with the information and support they need in an accessible and timely manner.